To my white friends and family

You are all good people. You love your family and your friends. You love your country. You work hard and you deserve all the good things you have, and then some.

I understand that when someone—anyone—accuses America as a whole or white people in general of being racist, you feel offended and defensive. You feel like you’re being singled out and attacked for the actions of others.

That’s not you, you think, and for the most part, you’re right. Maybe you have some biases and prejudices (I know I do), but you give everyone a chance. You recognize that every human being on this planet is a person with rights just the same as yours, even if you don’t always agree with that individual’s actions or lifestyle.

Here’s the thing, though. We live in a country and culture that has systematically been oppressing and killing people of color since Europeans began settling this continent. We killed off entire tribes of American Indians. We kidnapped Africans and enslaved them and tortured them and worked them literally to death. After slavery ended we moved to share cropping, which kept black people poor and destitute. Then came Jim Crow, in which state governments denied thousands upon thousands of blacks the right to vote. We had the Ku Klux Klan and endless lynchings.

Supposedly the Civil Rights movement stopped all that. But look around you. We never moved past Jim Crow, we just changed the rules. Now we lock up black people (and the mentally ill) in record numbers. We shunt them into housing projects, away from the “nice” neighborhoods. We call them lazy and violent.

And yes, when I say “we” I mean you, and I mean me. No, we did not participate in slavery. No, we were never members of the KKK. No, we’ve never lynched anyone. But we vote. We speak. We stand by while our black brothers and sisters are drowning in poverty that’s a direct result of the way our society has always treated them as less-than, other.

I’m not trying to make you feel like a bad person, and I don’t want you to feel guilty. You are not a bad person. You are a good, strong person and I love you. Guilt isn’t going to make anything better.

Instead, I challenge you to look at history and understand how we’ve come to this point. Recognize the pain and violence that white people have inflicted on black people since before the United States was a country.

We don’t demonize all white teenagers because of the few who have killed dozens of people in school shootings. We don’t demonize doctors because of the few who’ve negligently let people die.

Recognize these things, and then look at your fellow countrymen with empathy and compassion in your heart. Declaring that black lives matter is not an implication that your life matters less. It is, instead, a declaration that black lives matter as much your life matters. We’re all humans. We’re all Americans.

We cannot change the past, but we can change the future. We—you, and me—we can listen to what black Americans have to say. And even if we don’t agree, we can acknowledge their point of view and feelings as valid. As valuable.

We can listen, and we can learn, and then we can act, together, to make this a better place for all of us.

Respect my choice to be childfree

When I was around 14 years old, I realized I had no desire to have children.

And here I am, a few months away from hitting 30, and still, I have no desire for children. Neither does my partner.

It’s not just a lack of desire though. The thought of having my own children, of the ways in which their presence would fundamentally change everything about my life, is unappealing. I enjoy the ability to go out when and where I want without need to tote along a toddler or scramble for a baby sitter. I like being able to control my environment, to rest when I need to. I like spending money on books rather than diapers.

To be fair, I don’t know anyone who actively enjoys changing dirty diapers or waking up at 2 a.m. to a screaming infant, but most people, it seems, are happy to do these things because of the rewards they receive: a burbling laugh, a joyful smile, watching something they created take shape and become a person.

I am genuinely and truly happy for my friends who have (or are going to soon have, or eventually want to have) children. But it’s not for me.

(Considering also my chronic illness, preparing for pregnancy, going through pregnancy, and then caring for an infant would be incredibly difficult. Not impossible, but not pleasant, either.)

childfreeecard

My opinions on lots of big things have changed over the years, but excluding children from my life plan never has. My partner agrees. My parents don’t care if we have kids or not. They’d be happy if we did, but they’re just as happy if we don’t. My in-laws, too, have never hinted that they want more grandkids. They have instead expressed many times that they want us to be happy, in whatever we choose. My friends, too, even the ones with kids or who are planning to have kids soon, think nothing of the fact that I don’t want that life.

Not having children is our choice. It is not a comment on your desire (or lack thereof) for children. It is not a comment on the state of the world, overpopulation, or politics. It is simply the choice we have made for our lives.

Many people—customers I meet at work, business acquaintances, friends of friends of friends, distant relatives, random strangers I meet by happenstance—do not seem to understand, nor to respect, this choice.

Frankly, I am fed up with that bullshit.

Before I got married I heard, “Oh, just wait until you find the right man.”

After I got married I started hearing, “Oh, you’ll change your mind,” and “Oh, if you have dogs you’ll definitely have kids,” and “Just wait until you settle down a bit.”

Found right partner. Got stable jobs. Bought house. Writing career is progressing well. Library career is progressing well. Health is better than it’s been in a long time.

And guess what? We still do not want kids.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why people who hardly know me care so much whether I want children, and I have a few theories.

  1. Women are “supposed” to want kids. We are expected to want marriage and motherhood and to make dinner for our families and do the whole housewife thing, even if  we also have a full-time job outside of the house.
  2. People sometimes see the choices of others as attacks on their own choices. So, me not wanting children is another way of saying their decision to have children is less valid or somehow “wrong.” (It’s not, of course—both choices are equally valid.)
  3. The choice to eschew child rearing is often seen as selfish. Young people are generally considered to be self-absorbed navel gazers, and supposedly become less self-absorbed as they mature. So, to some people, the “selfish” decision to be childfree will eventually be worn away by life experience and the realization that the world is not all about you.

The irony, of course, is that most of these points of view are inherently self-centered. They are based on the assumption that having children is “right” and not having children is “wrong.” These feelings often come with more assumptions: That I hate children and/or look down on parents, especially stay-at-home-moms.

I don’t, of course. Parents are rock stars, and humanity could not go on without them. I love seeing my friends raising awesome little people, and I’m excited for what those little people will do.

The choice to be a working mom or a stay-at-home mom is a personal, individual choice that every mother has to make for herself. One isn’t inherently better (or more “feminist”) than the other. Every family is different. What’s right for one family may be wrong for another.

And I don’t hate all kids, either. Sometimes they drive me up the wall and make me want to scream (I have to deal with them a lot at my job), but sometimes they make my heart melt and they give me hope for the future of the world.

But I personally do not want children of my own. If you want children, awesome! Go for it. Raise the next generation of creators, inventors, doers, movers, and shakers.

But please, please, please stop telling me how to feel or how to live my life. Respect my choice to be childfree, and I’ll respect your choice, whatever that may be.

Voice

All around me, people are declaring loud and clear that other human beings with different genders, sexualities, and religious beliefs are not, in fact, human beings. That they are less than. Different (in the worst way). Other.

There’s Orlando. And the scores of black men being killed by police for no reason. And Trump. And Christian religious extremists. And Muslim religious extremists. And all the wars and shootings and murders and violence that has come before.

Some days that hatred forms a large enough wave that it bowls me over and the only thing to do is cry. I’m not afraid or ashamed to admit that sometimes, I’m scared. I’m scared of the people who would take away my rights as a human being, who would try to control me and limit me. And I’m afraid and sad for those whose rights have already been taken away, or who never experienced them in the first place.

But I have a voice, and I will use it.

I am scared, yes, but more than that I’m tired. I’m tired of men harassing me in the street. I’m tired of senseless violence. I’m tired of making less money than men. I’m tired of having my reproductive choices taken away by rich men who will never, ever have to make those same choices. I’m tired of xenophobia and homophobia. I’m tired of us versus them.

You can call me unrealistic. Idealistic. Crazy. Naive. Foolish. Stupid. Think of me what you will. I don’t have power, or money, or much influence. I don’t have physical strength.

But I do have a voice, and by the goddess, I will use it.